A couple of months ago, I started this blog knowing that I had an absolute gold mine of post ideas sitting right here in the same room with me in the form of my Illustrious Co-Worker, or whatever we finally decide to call her. I actually toyed with the idea of creating a separate blog just to chronicle the stunning redneck ridiculousness that is her life and my reactions to it. I knew NaBloPoMo would be no problem due to the wealth of material she was inadvertently feeding me on a daily basis. For a while, that is exactly how it went. If you’re unfamiliar with her exploits, I refer you to some of my early posts: exhibits A, B, and C.
Then something happened: My slack-jawed amazement at the depths of her ignorance and the constant reinforcement of every comical white-trash stereotype that she seemed to so thoroughly exhibit slowly turned instead to slack-jawed amazement at her relative level of achievement and inexplicably well-adjusted temperament and outlook. Yes, she’s still the dumbest person I’ve ever met, but she may also be the kindest, and homegirl’s had a hard life. I’ll explain:
It’s a long story which has been related to me by ICW herself quite matter-of-factly over the course of the four months we’ve worked together. In the interest of time and space, here’s the condensed version: Her parents are step siblings; Mom was a cocaine addict and Dad was a drunk. Due to Mom’s addiction, she had to live with Dad, and Dad would take her to the gas station every day and buy her the same ham sandwich and a beer because that was all he could afford (??). Child Services found out about the beer, so ICW had to go live with her mom’s mom, who was 400 pounds and bed-ridden, in a home that featured an outhouse. ICW’s uncle also lived there and sexually abused not only her but her cousins and his own bed-ridden mother as well. ICW was the one who finally, around the age of 12 or so, told someone about the abuse and had to testify in a lengthy trial against her uncle, at which time the other abuses were discovered, including the cousins, one of which was two years old. At some point in all this she also lived in the same group home that her mom grew up in, the same state-run facility that had kicked her mom out at the age of 16 for getting pregnant by a 32-year-old (ICW’s father).
At the age of 14, with no place to go, she was taken in by her future husband’s family, which her mother-in-law now holds over her in her efforts to keep ICW from divorcing said husband. The husband who once spent six days in jail after breaking a glass picture frame on her face. The husband who hasn’t held a job in three years. The husband who doesn’t know about ICW’s second savings account because she doesn’t trust him.
And yet: She hands out candy to the homeless on Halloween. She’s volunteered at a battered women’s shelter and a soup kitchen. She bought me a pair of warm gloves for Christmas because I had mentioned just once that I was thinking of getting a new pair. But here’s the kicker:
Almost every day for the four months that we’ve worked in the same room together, she makes a phone call and asks for either "Jesse" or "the meat department." She talks to Jesse for a few minutes, finds out how he’s doing and asks if he needs anything. It’s usually a short conversation. I just figured she was cheating on her no-good husband with a butcher named Jesse.
Turns out, and she didn’t even mention this until a month ago, Jesse is a mentally retarded man who she new as a child and who lived with her before she got married. He lives with his parents now, who are extremely poor and too sick to work, about two hours from here. None of them can take care of themselves, so ICW found Jesse a job cutting meat at a very understanding grocery store. Every Wednesday after work, she drives the two hours each way to pick up his pay check and pay the family’s bills.
In the last few months, ICW, or maybe we should start referring to her as My Freakin’ Hero, has lost 23 pounds in an effort to get back to a healthy weight and kicked her husband out (hopefully for the last time) on New Year’s Day. All this while earning $10 an hour and supporting two people and an ever-changing menagerie of dogs. And she is absolutely as dumb as a brick, which just may have served her well through the difficult times, but that is far from the most interesting thing about her.
So you see why, although her stupidity and the resulting things she does and says are still incredibly amusing to me, I just have too much respect for her to mock her to the degree that I once aspired to. The funny thing is, I don’t think she’s even particularly aware that she’s defying her horrific childhood or leading the kind of life that most people would find inspiring. She’s just gettin’ along.